As Haiti continues to cope with the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated its capital Port-au-Prince in January 2010, the Knights of Columbus are expanding their ongoing campaign to provide prosthetic limbs and physical therapy to children injured in the disaster.
The Catholic fraternal and charitable order discussed the continuation of its work with Project Medishare with reporters on Jan. 10, holding an “open house” at the medical charity's facility in Port-au-Prince.
Project Medishare has been working to improve the quality of health care in Haiti for more than 16 years. Its collaboration with the Knights of Columbus focuses on restoring mobility to children whose injuries required the amputation of one or more limbs after the earthquake.
Together, they intend to offer help for all of the estimated 1,000 children who lost an arm or leg in the unprecedented calamity. Approximately 250,000 people died in the earthquake, which also left one million people homeless and reduced much of Port-au-Prince's already frail infrastructure to rubble.
The “Healing Haiti's Children” program provides each child amputee with up to two additional replacement prosthetics, as needed, along with two years of physical therapy. So far, the Knights of Columbus have donated more than $1 million to the program.
Dr. Barth Green, the founder of Project Medishare, said that the Knights' support was critical because of the unique circumstances and needs of the children. “Each one of these growing, precious child amputees requires two or three new legs each year,” he explained, “which makes it essential to continue this life and limb saving project.”
Many governments and international agencies have struggled to provide effective aid to the country in the 12 months that have passed since the earthquake occurred on Jan. 12, 2010. However, Project Medishare was notable for its quick five-month transition from a tent hospital, to a 50-bed unit equipped for rehabilitation as well as emergency and critical care.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who leads the Knights of Columbus, announced on Jan. 6 that the men of the order were “honored to be able to give the important gift of hope to the children of Haiti,” by providing prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation to those who had lost limbs. More than 100 children have already benefited from the program, with hundreds more expected to receive help in the near future.
“It is rare to be able to give a gift that changes a life forever,” the Supreme Knight reflected. “Providing mobility does just that, for few things can change a child's life as completely as the ability to regain freedom of movement.”
Dr. Green explained that by restoring mobility to these children, Project Medishare and the Knights of Columbus were not only providing them with immediate relief, but also giving them the opportunity to help their troubled country forge a better future.
He said that the partnership “has allowed us to launch hundreds of Haitian children from wheelchairs to standing up and facing the many challenges of their devastated nation.” Many of those wheelchairs were also provided by the Knights of Columbus, in the period immediately following the earthquake.
In addition to the challenges of rebuilding its capital and housing those made homeless in the earthquake, Haiti is also struggling to contain a cholera epidemic that experts fear could infect 400,000 people. Adding to the confusion is uncertainty over the highly disputed national election that took place Nov. 28.